Smoking cigarettes in the parks and beaches of Canada's third largest city is to be banned as of September 1, the Vancouver Park Board has decided.
The elected board voted Monday night to prohibit smoking in some 200 parks and along 18 kilometers (11 miles) of beaches, such as Vancouver's famed Stanley Park, citing opinion surveys that suggest enormous support for the measure.
Board members also pointed to efforts to curb smoking by the World Health Organization and the Vancouver Coastal Health agency that claims smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke are the "leading" and "third leading cause of death" in the province, respectively.
But civil libertarians warned Tuesday that the prohibition could create more problems than any public health benefits would be worth.
Cigarette smoking has long been banned inside, and directly beside, public indoor venues in British Columbia -- as well as in indoor public facilities in many other Canadian cities.
A contentious recent study linked major recent declines in hospital admissions for heart, stroke and respiratory conditions in Toronto to a 2001 ban on smoking in restaurants in that city.
But smoking outdoors was mostly unregulated in Canada until recently, when several British Columbia towns started imposing bans in parks.
Smoking bans for beaches and parks also exist in some US states, as well as in Australia and Hong Kong.
Libertarians said Vancouver's outdoor smoking ban goes too far and argued that existing public nuisance bylaws would address smokers who bother others, or who litter.
The ban will be "unenforceable," predicted a spokesman with the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.
"There is no health effect" from the small amount of second-hand smoke that people are exposed to in outdoor parks, said medical professor Richard Mathias of the University of British Columbia, who described himself as "a relative libertarian."
"What we're dealing with here is a prohibitionist moral model that as far as I'm concerned is totally unacceptable," Mathias told AFP.
He said that he does not smoke "and I don't think anybody should smoke... but we're demonizing them."
"We have gone too far, particularly in British Columbia. We've already done everything we need to do from a regulatory perspective in reducing smoking," said Mathias.